And a Sprig of Time? Vintage Cookbooks at Farm & Fable in the South End
Farm & Fable, a new culinary-catchall shop in the South End, is stocked to the rafters with anything a home chef could want: a full demo kitchen for classes, handcrafted cookware, and a host of curated accessories. But the crown jewels of the Shawmut Avenue space are the stacks of vintage and antiquarian cookbooks that owner Abby Ruettgers has spent her entire life collecting.
So why bother with ’50s-era recipes for gelatin molds and stuffed mushrooms when you just got your hands on the slick new Ivan Ramen cookbook? “Most professional chefs that I know are always looking for inspiration for new recipes, and that is often found in old and unusual cookbooks,” Ruettgers says. “They are passion projects, and I think that comes through on the page. It makes the books more interesting, and the recipes more personal.”
For evidence, we asked Ruettgers to unearth a vintage recipe from her personal trove of titles that still feels relevant for today’s holiday table.
Farm & Fable, 251 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-451-1110, farmandfable.com.
From Peter Hunt’s Cape Cod Cookbook (1954)
When using vintage recipes, keep an eye out for omissions. This mushroom recipe, for instance, mentions chicken livers without telling you how to use them. (We’d highly recommend a fine dice over leaving them whole.) Whatever you do, Ruettgers says, don’t sweat it. “Worst-case scenario: Leave the chicken livers out of the mushroom stuffing and add a little more of a different type of fat to the filling,” she says. “Then take the chicken livers, sauté them with some shallots and butter, and serve them on toast. Problem solved, belly filled.”
3 lbs. mushrooms
3 chicken livers
1/4 lb. chopped beef
1 boiled egg, chopped fine
1/2 onion, browned in butter
2 celery stalks, chopped fine Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper
Peel and stem the mushrooms and boil them in salt water and the lemon juice. Remove from the fire as soon as the water boils. Pick over the mushrooms and set the large ones aside. Chop the small ones, adding the stems, and mix well with the rest of the ingredients, season, and spread a heaping layer of this stuffing in each large mushroom. Bake (350 degrees) until the mushrooms are tender—about half an hour. Serve on rounds of thin, hot buttered toast at luncheon. Should serve eight.